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February 16, 2023

Adult Capacity and Assessment

On this page, you will find resources for: 

  • Lawyers 
  • Judges 
  • Psychologists
  • Physicians 

For Lawyers

Assessment of Older Adults with Diminished Capacities: A Handbook for Lawyers, 2nd Edition

Receive a bulk discount of 20% off on 50 or more copies. Use the code, AGING20.

Publication available in digital form at no charge to public interest law organizations for internal use and education. Contact [email protected] for details.

The new edition includes added chapters on standards of capacity for a wide variety of transactions and on the assessment of undue influence, as well as incorporating supported decision-making practices throughout. The volume contains a practical worksheet for preliminary screening of capacities and a screening tool for undue influence. Multiple appendices provide an overview of psychological testing instruments; a sample referral letter to clinicians and sample clinical evaluation; a reference chart of medical conditions affecting capacity, and an overview of normal brain aging and disease.

This handbook is an update of the original collaborative work of the ABA Commission on Law and Aging and the American Psychological Association. The APA is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world’s largest association of psychologists. The ABA/APA Assessment of Capacity in Older Adults Project Working Group convened in 2003 and jointly published three handbooks:

  • Assessment of Older Adults with Diminished Capacity: A Handbook for Lawyers (2005);
  • Determination of Capacity of Older Adults in Guardianship Proceedings: A Handbook for Judges (2006); and
  • Assessment of Older Adults with Diminished Capacity: A Handbook for Psychologists (2008)

This new edition provides a needed update and expansion of the Lawyer’s Handbook.

This handbook represents a unique collaboration of lawyers and clinicians. It offers a system for preliminary screening and exploration of decision supports. It makes practical suggestions for attorneys in balancing the competing goals of autonomy and protection as they confront the difficult challenges of working with older adults with diminished capacities.

To produce this 2nd Edition, the ABA Commission on Law and Aging brought together an interdisciplinary team that included some of the original authors plus other experienced experts in law, psychology, geriatrics, and neurology.

Members of the writing, editing, and review team were:

  • Edwin M. Boyer, J.D.
  • Jason Karlawish, M.D.
  • Daniel Marson, J.D., Ph.D.
  • Kyle S. Page, Ph.D.Dari Pogach, J.D.
  • Mary Joy Quinn, R.N., M.A.
  • Charles P. Sabatino, J.D., Project Director
  • Erica F. Wood, J.D
  • Jennifer A. Moye, Ph.D., Consultant

The contents are the sole responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the ABA or any organizations with which the authors may be affiliated.

PRACTICAL Guide-A Guardianship Practice Tool

This resource guide aims to help lawyers identify and implement decision-making options for persons with disabilities that are less restrictive than guardianship. “PRACTICAL” is an acronym for nine steps lawyers can use in case analysis to identify legal and practical approaches to heighten self-determination before moving ahead with guardianship. Learn more about the PRACTICAL Guide and Tool

Developing Dementia Capable Legal Professionals (Hawaii Training, Feb. 2015)

Legal Issues and Alzheimer’s Webinar Series

  • Part 1: For Legal Professionals Working with People with Dementia and Assessing Client Capacity by Erica Wood, Esq., and Jane Tilly, DrPH (November 2012)

Competency: Reforming Our Legal Fictions

 by Charles Sabatino and Suzzanna L. Bassinger, Journal of Mental Health and Aging, pp. 119- 144 (2000).

For Judges

Judicial Determination of Capacity of Older Adults in Guardianship Proceedings

This book contains practical tools to equip a wide audience of judges to conduct any form of guardianship proceeding more effectively. Includes links to expanded information, work sheets, and model forms. 2006.

Printed copies are no longer available.

For Physicians

New Online Course for Primary Care Physicians and Other Clinicians on Assessment of Capacity of Older Adults  

Rush University Medical Center and the Commission on Law and Aging have released an interactive online education curriculum on assessing the capacity of older adults, funded by The Retirement Research Foundation. The course is timely because demographic, technological, medical and other vast changes affecting medical professionals are making capacity assessment a growing challenge. The curriculum is aimed at physicians but valuable for all health care clinicians and students. A press release with more details is available here.

Assessment of Older Adults with Diminished Capacity: A Handbook for Psychologists

This handbook is designed for psychologists evaluating civil capacities of older adults. 2008. 146 pp.

Printed copies are no longer available.


Evaluating the Capacity to Drive, by Erica F. Wood, Bifocal, Vol. 37, No. 4. March – April 2016

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